~ The West Dennis Garden Club ~
The West Dennis Garden Club is the oldest on Cape Cod and the Islands.
The West Dennis Garden Club will be 98 on October 7th 2022. A granite meditation bench and a Kousa Dogwood tree was dedicated as a gift to the Town of Dennis.
In 1924, Mrs. George Murray, a summer resident, was awed and inspired by the beautiful gardens of her neighbor, Mrs. Giles, a year round resident. Summer residents did not garden, believing that flowers could not be grown in the Cape’s sandy soil.“The few flower gardens seen, up to that time, were in boats, tubs or small plots set out in their front yards,” according to Ann Foss, who wrote a memoir of the Club in l963. Determined to learn all she could about gardening on the Cape, Mrs. Murray invited 14 friends to her home on a June afternoon to discuss “General Problems and Pests.” This initial gathering was so successful, that they continued to meet throughout the summer and fall. The following spring, the Garden Club of West Dennis “became official, officers were elected, and by-laws approved.” Forty-four members are listed in the early records of the Club whose purpose was “to study plant life, thereby increasing the interest in our home gardens and to arouse a greater feeling of pride in the general appearance of our village.” Although club presidents in the early years were summer residents, the vice-presidents led the winter meetings in their homes, “during which the members read poems on flowers and magazine articles on gardening.”
During the Twenties, the Club expanded its membership and projects. In 1926, shrubs, purchased from the proceeds from the sale of Christmas greens, were planted on the library lawn. In the last years of the decade, the Club became involved for the first time with civic problems. In 1928, a petition to clean up the dumping grounds in the Old Field woods was drawn up and presented to the Dennis Board of Health. The petition stated that the Club’s object was “to make the town more attractive, not to ruin it, and to co-op with the Townsmen for the good of West Dennis.”
In the early Thirties, the Club continued its civic outreach, and in the Fall of l931, Club members recommended to the Town Selectmen that the Graded School House on School Street be used by the Town for a Community Center House. On March 1, the Selectmen offered the School House to the Club at no expense. In 1935, the Club joined in the fight to eradicate ragweed, to control the mosquitoes, and “to end the menace of camping grounds encroaching on the better part of the Town.” During the Depression Years, Club membership continued to grow, but finances were low and the Club was unable to support its usual beautification projects.
The Forties were marked by a growing interest in women’s activities in Home Defense. In 1940, the Club helped start the West Dennis Unit of the American Red Cross. Members met to knit sweaters, plant victory gardens throughout the Town, and arrange flowers for the wounded veterans in Camp Edwards Hospital. In September, 1949, a letter was written by the Club President to Defense Secretary Johnson protesting the use of Monomoy Point as a bombing area. In response to this and other appeals, the Air Force relinquished its bombing and gunnery range and returned Monomoy Point to Chatham.
Membership and finances were on the upswing in the Fifties, enabling the Club to purchase its own dishes, pots and pans. During this decade, the Club continued its interest and participation in local affairs. In November, 1950, a committee was appointed to meet with the Planning Board to study zoning problems in the town. At the Town Meeting in March, sectional zoning for West and South Dennis passed by a vote of 87-32. In 1956, the Club began maintaining the garden at the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth. Seventy-two awards were given to families in the community for improving their gardens. The following year, the Garden Prayer was read at the opening of a meeting, a custom that continues to this day.
The Club enjoyed having a substantial bank account in the Sixties. In 1961, a $150 scholarship was given to the D/Y High School Fund, $150 to the Cape Cod Hospital and $200 to the building fund of the West Dennis Library. Flower, fashion shows, and garden walks provided the funds for great speakers and various projects.
The Seventies, Eighties, Nineties, and on to the present have continued the Club’s fundraising endeavors in support of local activities. In the 1970’s the Club donated the seed money to fund the Yarmouth Garden Club. The club now donates one $1,500 scholarship, one $1,000 scholarship, and one $750 toolship to local students. It also supports a Needy Family Fund to provide holiday gifts to a local family, donates monthly to the Family Pantry in Harwich, and buys carnations for Meals on Wheels during the holidays. It provides biweekly floral arrangements for the DCAL at the Senior Center, and cares for the gardens at the historic Jericho House and West Dennis Graded Schoolhouse. These activities are supported annually by a Plant and Yard Sale in the spring, and an Apple Pie Sale in the fall.
The enthusiasm of its members places it in an excellent position as it approaches its 100th anniversary and beyond. We continue to welcome new members from all of Cape Cod and appreciate donations to any of our causes.
SOURCES: Nicole Muller, Cape Cod Times; Ann Foss,
Kit Brigham, Mary Fiset and Nancy Keefe, Club Members